Freight Rail’s New Carbon Calculator Touts ‘Green’ Advantage

WASHINGTON — Shipping freight by rail instead over road not only eases traffic congestion, but drastically reduces CO2 emissions, as evidenced by the Association of American Railroads’ new interactive carbon calculator. For all shipments measured, the CO2 footprint was significantly smaller when moved by rail rather than by truck.

One calculation reports that 1,088 tons of CO2 would be eliminated by moving 100 cars of fresh and frozen food from Washington, DC to Portland, OR by train instead of by truck. The calculator estimates that it would take 25,323 tree seedlings 10 years to remove the same amount of carbon dioxide from the environment.

A”Freight rail is the most energy efficient way to move goods,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “Not only can a freight train move a ton of goods an average of 436 miles on one gallon of fuel, but if just 10 percent of the long distance freight that today moves by truck was shifted to rail, greenhouse gas emissions would decrease by 12 million tons.”

“Going ‘green’ is more than just a passing trend for railroads,” Hamberger said. “Since 1980, freight railroads have become 80 percent more energy efficient and reduced our fuel consumption by 48 billion gallons. Just think about how much better off our country would be from an energy standpoint if cars, trucks and planes had all improved their energy efficiency by that amount.”

Freight railroads continually strive to be even more efficient, Hamberger added. He noted that a new generation of locomotives is being developed that will achieve EPA’s goal of reducing particulate matter emissions by 90 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent over the most stringent standard previously required.

“Freight railroads are the cleanest, safest and most efficient way to keep America’s freight moving,” Hamberger said. “Being green is a win-win for everyone.”

AAR’s new interactive carbon calculator can be accessed at

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